Guide to International Food in Lyon (by arrondissement)

When I moved to Lyon from Paris, I complained that there wasn’t enough international food. Since then, two things have happened. 1) I realized I was wrong and 2) a ton of new cool restaurants have opened up! About half of the places on this list opened after I moved to Lyon (which was in 2013).

By the way, I’m using “international food” fairly loosely here – in most cases, I don’t mean “100% authentic food the way it is served in its country of origin” (because how the hell do I know what “real” Ethiopian food is like) I mean “not French.”

Because I love baguettes and quiche and all, but I don’t want to each French food all the time.

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A Little Bit of Lisbon

It’s January, the time of year when we wistfully think back to our summer vacations! After I got back from Italy, Hugo and I spent a few days in Lisbon at the beginning of July. We had been planning to go for a year, but the summer before he had started a new job and couldn’t take time off (so I went to Spain instead).

Everyone kept raving about Lisbon – it was so beautiful, so cheap, so charming, so friendly, their favorite European city. We had a great time and the weather was beautiful, but I wouldn’t go back in high season. It was quite crowded, and many of the locals didn’t seem thrilled with all the tourists.

The language barrier was frustrating too – I memorized the essential travel phrases before we left, but Portuguese is not a language that comes easily to me despite its Latin roots. It wasn’t hard to navigate the city in the least, but I feel uncomfortable and apologetic when I can’t speak the local language. I do my best not to be an ugly American, but I just don’t speak all the languages. There were several instances where we were treated rudely, I suspect because we didn’t speak much Portuguese, and even though that wasn’t the overall trend, those few bad experiences stuck with me.

I would still like to go back to Portugal and visit more cities; Porto and Comporta (thanks, New York Times) are both on my list.

Today I’ll share a few highlights, some resources (scroll down to the bottom for those), and things I would do differently next time. And gratuitous photos, of course.

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My Favorite Wine Bars in Lyon (by arrondissement)

Hi! I’ve been writing more and more about Lyon this year, and some of you have told me that you found these posts useful (which is awesome, because otherwise why am I doing this?) I’m so glad to hear it – thank you for the feedback.

Here is the most important one yet. (Unless you don’t drink wine, in which case this will be almost totally useless to you. Maybe you like tea or coffee? No? Croissants?)

It goes without saying that I really liked all these places, or I wouldn’t have put them on the list! But there are a few that I love – my favorite favorites – so I’ve marked them with a ❤.

There are loads of fantastic wine bars in Lyon – feel free to comment if you have a favorite I haven’t included. These are simply places I have been to (many times, in some cases) that I think are great.


1st arrondissement

❤ La Cave d’à Coté: Cozy, great planche of charcuterie & cheese (Closed Sunday)

Le Vin des Vivants: Pretty terrace, low prices (Closed Sunday and Monday)

❤ Autour d’un Verre: Classy but casual, tasty tapas. Some outdoor seating, but the ambiance is inside. (closed Sunday. Owner speaks very good English.)

Bones & Bottles: Oh-so-hip, a little pricey, great food – small plates. Limited outdoor seating. (closed Sunday and Monday. English spoken)

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The Prettiest Places for Tea in Lyon

There is something really nice about sitting down for a snack or a cup of tea in a beautiful setting. I’m not one to prefer the fancy schmancy over something simple, but I can’t deny that I like drinking out of a pretty cup. Here are a few places in Lyon where you can enjoy the asthetic as much as your goûter.

Jeannine & Suzanne

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Jeannine & Suzanne is a new café in the 2nd arrondissement. Everything is beautiful. The tables, the chairs, the walls, the floors, the ceiling, even the ashtrays outside (pretty metal tea boxes). Oh, and the food is beautiful too. Their little tarts are works of art, and they have a long list of tea and other beverages. The kitchen is visible through a glass wall. The vibe here is modern-beautiful-quirky. Aka, totally Instagrammable.

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Paris cheap eats: International yummies for 10€ or less

My first year as an expat in France was spent in Paris as a struggling English teacher plagued with visa problems.

I didn’t eat out a lot.

When I did splurge on something that wasn’t pasta, I wanted the yummiest possible food for the least possible cost.

Actually, I still want that. So now, whenever I’m in Paris, I hunt down the best cheap food I can find. These are some of my favorites so far.

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Wine tasting in Vouvray: Domaine Pichot

Before May 2014, I wasn’t totally sure what Vouvray was apart from my mom’s favorite wine. Turns out, it’s actually a small town in the Loire Valley and all the wine produced there. It’s an especially nice because it’s easy to pronounce, for a French wine. Voo-vray.

Vouvray is made from Chenin Blanc grapes, so it’s a white wine and sometimes a sparkling wine, and it is yummy. It’s not the most famous wine within France, but it should be because it is delicious enough to make me put down my rosé. If you’d like to know more, I’ll go ahead and direct you to Wikipedia or another reputable source of your choosing, as this is not my particular area of expertise.

If you’re in Vouvray and you’d like to go wine tasting, you should call and make an appointment, especially off-season. Otherwise, busy wine makers will look at you like you are crazy for showing up unannounced, even though their website implies you can. Our lovely hosts at La Bagatelle recommended we check out Domaine Huet, one of the big-wig producers of Vouvray, and it was very nice. My favorite, though, was Domaine Pichot.

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Best of Montpellier: Visit, shop, eat

Remember how much I loved Montpellier? Well, one thing that made our 24 hours so awesome was this great guide to Montpellier from Design Sponge. Natalie, the author, use to live and blog in Montpellier, and I wish I could find her on social media to thank her for writing such a fantastic comprehensive guide. We visited quite a few places on her list, and all of them were hits.

With only twenty-four hours, I didn’t feel bad about staying in the city center, although next time I’d love to venture out to other neighborhoods. We skipped the beach, since we had just come from Sète anyway, and spent hours wandering the charming winding cobblestoned streets of Montpellier, eating and drinking and taking photos. Here are some of my favorite places that were on Natalie’s list (and a couple that weren’t).

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L’Epicerie Comptoir, Lyon

It would be easy for you to think that I live in Paris, but I don’t. I did, but I moved south a year ago. Not all the way south – to the Rhône-Alpes region. You know, Grenoble, Lyon, Annecy, Chamonix – it’s a nice part of France. (Although if you were to ask me where the not-nice parts of France are, I’d be at a loss to tell you.)

In the summer, I move around a lot, but in theory I’m based in Lyon. I freaking love Lyon. It’s a great city. You can look forward to some inside scoops from Lyon (because I have friends who know what the scoop is and they tell me) and here’s the first one.

I was spending a few days in Lyon with my friend before kicking off the summer, and since we’re both American, we were hungry. Please note that we were hungry at around 8pm which is one of the acceptable times to be hungry in France. We went around the corner to try a little place that both of us had passed numerous times in Croix Rousse – l’Epicerie Comptoir.  (You can also find them in two other arrondissements in Lyon as well as Grenoble.)

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We chose inside over outside because it was getting chilly, and the gentleman inside greeted us warmly. We asked to see a menu, and he replied, “I am the menu!” He recommended a plate of charcuterie and a choice of tapenades with a really yummy wine that may have been from Australia or South America or possibly the south of France.

Normally I have trouble relinquishing control over my food like this. I like to comb through the menu, look at the prices, add it all up in my head, and then make a decision, so agreeing to food without having all the background information is disagreeable to me in the same way that I find it disagreeable when I’m not allowed to choose my own produce at the market (I don’t WANT the apple with the little hole in the side and I’m sorry if that makes me a produce snob.)

My self-induced anxiety was lifted when our food came. A perfect planche of charcuterie with thinly sliced saucisson and pâté en croute and prosciutto (sorry vegetarians). I eat a fair amount of charcuterie in France, and this is probably the best I’ve ever had. And the tapenades! There was olive, beet (which we referred to as “betterave” even when speaking English because “beet” means something quite different in French) and two others which I think had something to do with red peppers and garlic. All four were de-lish even if I cannot remember what they all were.

Epicerie Comptoir

We also had a whole jar of small pickles (gherkins? Cornichons) to go with the charcuterie and I may have overdone it on that front. I like tiny pickles, what can I say?

l'Epicerie Comptoir, Lyon

The bill came to about 20 euros each, which is a little more than I usually spend on dinner (#thrifty) but it was reasonable considering the quality of all the different things we tried. FYI, you can also buy their products to take home, hence why is it called “L’Epicerie.”

L'Epicerie Comptoir, Lyon

Update: I did end up returning to L’Epicerie Comptoir, and while there are other wine bars in Lyon that I prefer, L’Epicerie Comptoir has a nice modern vibe and a good amount of seating – hopefully, you won’t have to fight for a table here.

If you like wine and apéro, you might like my list of favorite wine bars in Lyon.

Updated: Seven foods that need to go mainstream in France

(Update: I wrote this two years ago, and a lot of things have changed around here! I’ve discovered new things, a lot more international food has popped up in Lyon, I started buying almond milk, you get the idea.

I think that a lot of the things on the list still hold true. None of them are part of French culture (France has its own awesome things) and most of them are still unfamiliar to the older generation/people who live in less urban areas.

Keep in mind that Lyon is the second biggest city in France (or third after Marseille depending on how you slice it). It’s been voted one of the best cities for start-ups and there’s a substantial population of young hipsters and bobos (and foreigners, like me!)  There is so much innovation and creativity present in this city! Happily, that has begun to translate into food too. In the years that I’ve lived here a lot of new restaurants and cafes have popped up, and I’ve discovered new places I didn’t know about before.

If you live in a less-urban area of France, I’d love to know your take on these things too! Can you get smoothies and barbecue where you live? Does anyone eat corn on the cob?

So with that, here’s the original post; you’ll find my updates italicized below each section.)

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